It’s not just teenagers and young adults who are affected by eating disorders. Eating disorders have been known to continue into the later stages of life if they’re not resolved earlier on. It’s also possible to develop an eating disorder as an adult. Keep reading to find out more about eating disorders in adulthood.
How it Happens
In older age, people tend to experience more health issues. They also face major life stressors, like deaths of family members and friends, and they can become caretakers of elderly parents. Even retirement, which many people look forward to for many years, can be a very stressful change. All these elements create a feeling of being out of control. In an effort to regain a sense of being in charge of their lives, some people start to take a disordered approach to their food consumption.
Similarities and Differences
The most common core issue behind eating disorders is bodily control, and weight perception is often an issue among both teenagers and adults with eating disorders. Clinical depression is often present, too. In older adults, disordered eating can be a sign of a medical condition like dementia. Sometimes seniors start to restrict their food intake because they’re financially unable to get groceries or don’t have the energy to do so.
How to Help
Caregivers play a significant role in the health of older adults, especially those whose disordered eating may be triggered by loneliness or conditions like dementia. When you first notice a change in eating patterns, don’t jump to conclusions that there’s an eating disorder present. You will need to dig deeper before you know for sure what’s going on. This is not a situation in which confronting your loved one up front is the wisest move because it can put them on the defensive. Instead, try eating a meal with them and observing any issues with their attitude toward food.
From there, make an appointment for them to see their physician. Only a physician can officially determine whether the issue is medical. If finances or energy levels are what’s preventing them from eating healthily, you could connect them with a program like Meals on Wheels.
Older adults who don’t maintain healthy eating habits are at increased risks for heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. Good nutrition is critical throughout your entire life. If you or your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, know that you aren’t alone, and help is available.